Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion
An acoustic history lesson in Celtic mythology that may alienate old fans
I remember when I reviewed Eluveitie's last album, Slania, which was released in 2008, I said that they would continue in the shadow of other leading folk metal bands such as Korpiklaani unless they could really focus their style and harness the energy that could be heard on their break-through single Inis Mona. Whilst it is true that Korpiklaani are still more widely known and better selling, Eluveitie's new release Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion is a major step in the right direction for the band. This is the first part of a two disc acoustic release, and whether or not this acoustic style is one that future releases will continue with is still unknown. The bands previous material was much heavier and the vocals were dominantly from male vocalist Chrigel Glanzmann, but there has been a shift towards a pagan metal sound that incorporates melodic, flowing folk instrumentals, and songs that are dominanted by female Hurdy Gurdist Anna Murphy. Alan Nemtheanga of Primordial provides his voice for small parts in two of the albums tracks.
The concept of Evocation I surrounds Kernunnos, who is an important figure in Celtic mythology, and believed to have been the Celtic god of the Underworld. The band have continued to write all of their lyrics in the dead language Ancient Gaulish, and they have even stated th at most of the lyrics are 1600-2100 years old.
One of the best things about Eluveitie is that they take creativity to another level. Standard song structures are thrown out the window, which allows the album to flow together progressively, and it is easy to become lost in the serenity of traditional folk instruments such as the Hurdy Gurdy and the bagpipes. This will be a turn off for a lot of listeners, as it can often be hard to distinguish whether or not this album is ambient and better off as background noise. As easy as it is to lose yourself in the music, it can be just as easy to lose focus and forget about it.
The highlight of the album is the band's new single Omnos, which is the one song which is closest to their metal roots, and it is placed strategically in the middle of the album to break up the monotony of the slow, atmospheric instrumental passages which are haunted by whisperings and brief vocal inclusions.
This album could be looked at from two sides. It is beautiful, flowing and rebellious in the way that it fails to succumb to an increasingly trend driven style of music, but at the same time the band have toned down their aggression and taken away a lot of the energy that their last album thrived on. Even previous fans shouldn't expect to be able to walk away from this one satisfied, but however many fans they lose I'm sure they'll make up with new ones.
(Nuclear Blast Records/Riot! Entertainment)